Biden administration will invest billions to expand coronavirus vaccine manufacturing
WASHINGTON - The Biden administration is planning to invest billions of dollars to expand U.S. manufacturing capabilities of coronavirus vaccines to increase the supply of doses for poorer nations, the White House said Wednesday.
The White House is aiming to spur the production of at least 1 billion doses a year. The funds will support companies that make mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, by helping them expand their capacity by funding facilities, equipment, staff and training.
For months, the United States has been under pressure to play a larger role in sharing vaccines with the world, and Wednesday announcement is the latest partnership between the federal government and pharmaceutical companies to bolster vaccine production during the pandemic. The effort is also designed to prepare the U.S. for future pandemics to ensure the country's manufacturing will be able to quickly produce vaccines, the White House said.
"The goal is to guarantee capacity to produce approximately 100 million mRNA vaccines a month against covid or other pandemic viruses upon demand for the United States or global use," said David Kessler, the administration's chief science officer who oversees vaccine distribution. "We are looking to enter into a historic partnership with one or more experienced pharmaceutical partners. This partnership will be used for covid and any future pandemic viruses with the goal of having enough vaccines available within six to nine months of the identification of the virus."
Kessler said the funds for the effort have already been allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in March.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, known as BARDA, has published a "request for information," seeking proposals from companies that have experience using mRNA technology. BARDA is the office within the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for developing vaccines and other medical countermeasures.
For months, activists have criticized the Biden administration for failing to scale up domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity to boost the global supply of vaccines. Protesters have gathered outside the homes of top officials in Washington in recent weeks, including White House chief of staff Ron Klain and covid coordinator Jeff Zients, demanding the White House do more to share vaccines with the world.
In September, activists gathered outside Klain's house and set up a 12-foot pile of fake bones they said symbolized American inaction in combating the global coronavirus crisis.